The SEO landscape is changing.
RankBrain, Latent Semantic Indexing and voice search have placed a heavy hand of friendly persuasion on the SEO industry, resulting in a shift towards solution-led (rather than keyword-led) content.
For years, short-tail and transactional keywords were the primary focus of SEO campaigns and, to an extent, they still tend to dominate the communication channels between agencies and clients. However, there is a clear acknowledgement on both sides of the fence with regards to the power of long-tail keywords.
Evangelism by the likes of Rand Fishkin and Neil Patel, along with the popularity of ‘content marketing’, has no doubt helped fuel this adoption.
The complexity of Google’s search algorithm means that they/it (/he/she?!) has a stronger grasp of the intent behind a search, rather than simply looking at the keyword strings that make up said search term. This has had a direct effect on how we plan our content and attract our target audience.
Does that mean that keyword research is dead? Not at all. In the ever increasingly competitive and complex world of search, it means that research is more important than ever.
But how do we adapt keyword research in relation to this focus on identifying great long-tail keywords?
First: focus on searcher intent
This should underpin all of your activities – research, creation and distribution. What is the searcher really trying to achieve and how is your content helping them reach this goal?
Ultimately, the tools listed below are there to help you speed up this process and to provide ideas, but you can’t fully rely on them to produce an outstanding long-tail keyword strategy.
Take the time to understand your target market, the length of the sales cycle or what factors influence their purchasing/conversion decisions. Subsequently, you will be able to understand the type of search terms that can be targeted to provide the most value for your users. Better yet, you can understand the intent behind relevant searches and provide solutions.
Google’s Keyword Planner
Often the first port of call for many when it comes to keyword research, albeit somewhat restricted by the necessity of a minimum AdWords spend to access more accurate data.
The Keyword Planner may have less specific data in comparison to the former ‘Keyword Tool’, but it does have some useful additions to help you with identifying valuable long-tail keywords.
The ‘Keyword ideas’ and ‘Ad group ideas’ function provides related search terms, helping you save time thinking of all the different variations. Sift through the tabs (there were 700 keyword ideas in this example) to gain data on potential long-tail keyword ideas.
Even if you don’t find the perfect match for your strategy you should be able to acquire new idea ‘streams’ which should lead to more fruitful long-tail keywords.
Use Google’s suggestions
Do not underestimate how useful Google’s own suggestions within the SERPs are. They are unlikely to be the central pillar in your strategy but they can certainly contribute.
When we are searching for those high value long-tail keywords, Google rather helpfully suggests related search terms according to what you are inputting into the search bar:
Once you have entered your search, Google also displays related searches to help you find the right information:
BuzzSumo, Answer the Public, Keywordtool.io & others
As SEOs in 2018, we are spoilt by the amount of tools available to help us draw insights into what the most effective strategy will be. Keyword research is no different. We have progressed from simply looking at average monthly search volume to being able to utilize BuzzSumo to understand what the most shared type of content is in relation to your topic.
We can use Answer the Public to be instantly displayed within a plethora of long-tail search terms in a visual ‘who, what, why, when, how’ type format.
Or use Keywordtool.io to have greater access to Google Suggest and Autocomplete, therefore accessing 750+ keywords at a time rather than the more granular method mentioned previously.
I am absolutely not doing justice to the value just these three platforms represent, but there are reasons as to why I have not dived into using the tools:
- I don’t want to spoil the surprise
- This article would become far too long!
- There are lots of really good platforms out there which have not been mentioned
- (Most importantly) these tools are there to facilitate ideas and structure. In my opinion they do not complete the job for you.
Identify the value
Uurrggghhh. Value. Please Mr. Value, come and join the throng of other overused buzzwords.
Whatever terminology you use, this is the most important point that will be made in this article.
The tools listed above will only get you so far in creating the highest performing content strategy possible. Like with any keyword research, the suggestions and data are great starting points.
However, there are other variables at play which will dictate which search terms you target and the content you produce. Some examples of which may be:
- Relevance to your product or service
- In house expertise and ability to create content on a specific subject
- Buyer persona’s buying processes
- Time decay
In my opinion, it is madness not to check the SERPs before signing off on a keyword and subsequent content strategy. Not only do the SERPs give you great insights into what Google perceives as the user intent behind any one search, but they also show you how competitive each search term is.
If you are investing time and money into content creation and targeting longer tail search terms, you want to make sure that you are targeting the ones with highest ROI. That doesn’t mean the highest search volume – it means the ones that will deliver the greatest results in relation to the amount of work required.
High search volume keywords are great and if you can target them then fantastic, go ahead. Be aware, though, that there are quicker wins.
Using your keyword research, you should be able to sift through the SERPs to understand which ones have results which could be improved. Perhaps you do not feel like the searcher’s intent has been completely satisfied, or that new information has come out which makes the other results dated.
Whatever the reason, spotting these opportunities and using the SERPs to influence your content strategy is critical in a truly efficient campaign.